FROM DAY ONE… AND FOR A LIFETIME
“Military life changes a person,” says Andy Robinson. “Combat changes a person.”
Andy, a Marine Staff Sergeant who served with the 1st Intelligence Battalion based out of Camp Pendleton in San Diego,California, was changed by combat in some of the most profound ways imaginable. He was on patrol in al-Anbar Province in Iraq on June 20, 2006, when insurgents detonated an improvised explosive device beneath his truck.
“The blast broke my legs, collapsed my lungs, and broke ribs as well as my vertebrae,” he said. “The break to my vertebrae resulted in a spinal cord injury and I’m paralyzed from the chest down and also in my hands and some muscles of my arms are paralyzed. I am a quadriplegic.” “When you join the military,” Andy continues, “the thought of sacrificing your life for your country, for your brothers in arms, crosses most service members’ minds. What many don’t think of—or don’t think of as often—is the possibility of sustaining lasting significant injuries.”
Part of Andy’s recovery included surgery to reinforce his vertebrae with titanium and to insert metal rods into his lower legs. It was around this time that he met caseworkers from the Semper Fi Fund.
“The Semper Fi Fund was there from the beginning of my recovery,” Andy says. “They assisted in paying for my family to travel to see me while I was in the hospital. They helped pay for my first adapted vehicle that accommodated my wheelchair. When another non-profit provided me and my wife with a fully adapted home, the Semper Fi Fund contributed $50,000 to that project. The Semper Fi Fund got me involved in handcycling and provided me with both a handcycle and a racing wheelchair as well as a piece of work out equipment for me to use in my home.”
Currently between jobs, Andy is enjoying his time with his wife, Sara, and his two-year-old twins. “Disabilities complicate simple activities we otherwise rarely consider difficult. For example, the fact that I use a wheelchair all the time pretty much made it impossible to go on the beach unless I wanted to be hauled out there by my friends or family using an awkward and uncomfortable beach chair. Once out on the sand that’s where I would stay until it was time to leave. Not very much fun. The Semper Fi Fund purchased an Action Trackchair for me that is not provided through my veterans affairs benefits and healthcare. This chair made it possible for me to enjoy the beach with my wife and twins with independence. I took my son on my lap and we went and chased seagulls while my wife and daughter got to play in the sand. This may seem simple, but consider going to the beach and only being able to watch your family enjoy themselves instead of participating in the memories. The Semper Fi Fund made that experience along with so many others a possibility.”
“To me, the Semper Fi Fund means that there is a network of caring people who understand the difficult sacrifices that I and my fellow service members have made in support of our country. It’s not just a fund that helps offset financial complications that are a result of these sacrifices. The case managers, leadership, contributors, and fellow recipient veterans understand that recovery is a lifelong pursuit and is as much mental, psychological, and emotional as it is physical. The Semper Fi Fund has met all aspects of that need time and time again throughout my years of recovery as well as in the lives of countless other veterans and their families.”